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Why is it So Hard to Get a Next-Gen Console?

Are you struggling to get an Xbox Series X or a PlayStation 5? Yeah, you're not alone. A Microsoft rep talks about their struggles of shipping next-gen consoles during a pandemic, and what you can do about it.
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Since their pre-order windows in September, trying to acquire a next-generation system this year has been a bit of a hassle. And, by “a bit” we mean that disgruntled gamers unable to grab their own systems are taking to Twitter to call the situation a “paper launch,” alleging that Microsoft and Sony weren’t actually ready to release systems in the middle of a pandemic. 

Indeed, trying to purchase an Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5 right now only pulls up “out of stock” notices and ridiculously marked-up listings from scalpers. Worse even than scalpers reselling for over double MSRP are scammers selling “pictures” of consoles for hundreds of dollars.

Platforms like eBay have stated that they’re cracking down on such scams, but it only serves to underscore how frustrating this console has been. 

What Happened?

It’s unclear what, exactly, is throwing such a wrench in the process of delivering stock of the consoles. Of course, trying to launch a new generation of systems while in the midst of a raging pandemic is no way task, but there’s likely more to these shortages than just production and shipping woes.

Related: PlayStation 5 Won’t be on Store Shelves at Launch Day

Notably, Microsoft and Sony both called this their biggest launches ever for a new console, meaning these performed even better than the last generation’s launch.

There is certainly built-up demand for these devices. Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, more people are home, bored, with nothing to do. This is a prime recipe for massive console demand, as everyone has plenty of time to play video games at home.

These demand and manufacturing issues are compounding on other factors, too. Take, for instance, scalpers: many people who buy up all the consoles to resell them use bots, complicated computer scripts, to scan the web for listings and buy them up before any human buyer possibly could.

These scripts artificially inflate traffic to the seller’s site, which further spies the process down for legitimate buyers. 

Is There Another Way?

This debacle has led to many games asking if there is a better way. Xbox head Phil Spencer gave his take in a recent interview. “I do think it’s going to push us to think about new models,”  Spencer told The Verge during the interview.

“It could be, reserve your slot. It could be doing things more direct with the customer. Still could have the retailer fulfill the order, but just so people can have more clarity on when they can get a console. It’s something we’re working on.”

Many gamers have been clamoring for a system like this after playing online “whack-a-mole,” chasing console restock updates and seeing nothing but “out of stock” notices and severely overpriced secondhand sales. 

Now What?

If you’re actively searching for a new console, here’s hoping you’re able to find one without too much hassle. However, if you’re finding it impossible and frustrating, don’t be afraid to simply throw in the towel and wait for the situation to calm down.

There is simply more demand than supply currently, and, with holiday shopping in full swing that’s not likely to change anytime soon. Consider waiting until next year, when supply catches up to demand, the pandemic cools off and scalpers stop aggressively buying the system out for resale.